Thank You, Grandpa

This is my grandfather, circa 1944.  A 1st Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.

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He was a pilot. He flew B-24 Bombers over Europe. He was part of the Battle of the Bulge, and was even shot down once or twice. In fact, he went MIA for a few days after one mission with an unplanned landing. As I remember the story, he managed to make his way back to the base just in time to prevent a dreaded “Missing-In-Action” telegram from being sent to my grandmother.

He served our country…and, like so many other men and women of his generation, and so many other veterans, his service defined him.

He was a wonderful father and grandfather. He was a salesman – selling corrugated paper and packaging materials to support his family. He loved to fish and travel, and tinker with gadgets around the house. But when he spoke of his time as an Army Air Corps pilot, his missions at night, the rations, and especially of his crew, his eyes would glimmer. Sometimes a tear would form in the corner of his eye, as he reminded us that as a pilot, he never lost a man. We knew the experiences he shared with his crew were sacred. We knew we could never really understand their bond, borne out of the fear they shared that one, or all of them, might not come home. They lived through moments of terror, I’m sure. Yet my grandfather reflected on his time in the service as one of the best times of his life.

I’m so grateful for his service, and for the sense of patriotism he passed on to his children and grandchildren.

To my Grandpa, and all those who serve:  THANK YOU.

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Celebrating My 100th Post

 At the beginning of 2011, I began this blog, and joined the WordPress “Post A Week” Challenge. Nearly 14 months have come and gone, and now WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post!

Hmmm, how should I commemorate this important occasion?

Should I revive some of my more memorable posts (memorable for me, anyway)? I could bring back the one I wrote about my mother last Mother’s Day – 13 Things You Should Know About my Mom. Or I could remind you of the love story I told about my grandparents around Valentines Day – Step One: Get the Girl. I could even resurrect the blog post that somehow managed to hit the Freshly Pressed Radar,  Mom, I Know Lots of Words,  about my son learning to read. Dear God, I was gushing with pride then, I’m almost a little embarrassed by it now.

Kindergarten Homework
Kindergarten Homework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I look back at my posts, I realize that there is a lot of variety in my blog. (Translation: I have no direction!) I’ve shared some sappy stories about my kids, and family, as well as one or two Bad Parenting Moments.

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I’ve thrown in a few travel posts, mostly about my family vacation. I tried, once or twice, to give some advice on SMART goals, and business skills…as if I know! I’ve even shared a few recipes, like the one for my Kahlua Chocolate Chip muffins. Those things should be illegal!

Maybe I should use my 100th post to give you a list of my blogging resolutions, or some of my plans for upcoming posts (as if I have some).

However, what I should really do is come up with some fresh material.

My Favorite Way to Make Corned Beef and Cabbage – No Crockpot Required

I cannot wait to revive this recipe this weekend. This might be the way to prepare the tastiest corned beef, ever!

Odds 'N Ends

Using my oven as a slow cooker.

I know that for all you culinary experts out there, this is probably a pretty elementary concept. But for me, it was like getting the super-secret password to big-batch cooking!

Last week, I had a cooking quandary. I was planning a Paddy’s Day corned beef and cabbage  dinner for about a dozen adults, and another 1/2 dozen kiddies, all stemming from my quaint, far-from-commercial kitchen. In the past, I prepared it on the stove stop, or in my slow cooker, but those were meals for 4-6 people. This weekend, I was planning on a houseful (and I was kind of hoping to have some leftovers to boot.) There is no way that 14 pounds of corned beef would fit into my little crock-pot.

Near panic, I decided that there is no conundrum that the Google Search engine cannot solve. Sure enough, I found several sites…

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On Giving Up Chocolate For Lent – What Was I Thinking?

It’s Ash Wednesday evening, and while sitting in traffic of the way to work this morning, I decided that I would give up Chocolate for Lent.

Ash Wednesday is like New Year’s Day. For those of us that observe Lent, it’s an opportunity to revive those New Years Resolutions that have already gone south.

Of course, I didn’t make any New Years Resolutions this year, and I don’t often go out of my way to give something up for Lent. But this morning, something inspired me to say goodbye to chocolate for a little while. Maybe it was the fact that my slacks were feeling a bit snug this morning. Maybe, I wanted to challenge myself. Maybe I need to practice a little self-discipline, or maybe I just want to torture myself for 40 days.

From a religious perspective, I actually think forgoing chocolate is a bit of a copout. After all, Lent is supposed to be about sacrifice, but I’m pretty sure it’s about making sacrifices for the benefit of others. My six-year old is already better at Lent than I am; he earned a canned good for food drive at Church by spontaneously cleaning his room the other day. (Talk about miracles!)

Giving up chocolate is a recycled Lenten gesture too. Been there. Done that – about 15 years ago. It was a long 40 days, and I don’t think I’ve given up anything since.

Whether or not giving up my favorite little indulgence is a worthy Lenten sacrifice, I’m stuck with it now. I’ve said it “out loud” for the everyone in the blogosphere to hear.

Now it’s time to bid adieu to some of my favorite treats;

Chocolate covered pretzels (I had one last night, ooooh, so good!)

 M&Ms – the dark chocolate ones

The little wrapped chocolate hearts in the candy dish in the living room.

My favorite Kahlua Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hot Chocolate …

Oh dear, this is going to be tough. Here’s hoping for something yummy in my Easter Basket!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 3 – Spinning my Wheels

The clock is winding down, and I am getting more frazzled each minute. So frazzled, that I missed my Day 4 post altogether. Oops!

Well, instead of drafting a blog post, this is how I spent yesterday evening. After dinner was done, and 1st grade homework squared away, I decided to run” a few last-minute errands:

  1. Home Depot: This had nothing to do with Christmas, but rather a home renovation project. I had picked out some tile do a kitchen backsplash and wanted to make sure I purchased a full supply, lest I go back next week and find that it’s sold out. While there, I picked up a gift for the office Yankee Swap. Two birds killed with one stone. Off to a good start.
  2. Dunkin Donuts: Picked up gift cards for my children’s teachers. I hope they all like coffee and munchkins!
  3. The Liquor Store: I arrived there 5 minutes before closing time. Just enough time to buy a nice bottle of Scotch for my boss, and a bottle of Baileys for me. Three stops in 45 minutes, I was doing well.
  4. Target: It all went downhill from here. On my list were slippers (for my daughter to wear to her preschool, Polar Express pajama party today), a few stocking-stuffers for the kids, some gift bags, and gift cards for the folks at work.
    When I left, I had all of those things, plus: a plastic toboggan to go under the tree, a gift for my kids to give their Dad, a lovely set of gloves, scarf and a hat for the kids to give to me, gifts for the Aunt and Uncle we will see on Christmas, candy canes for my son’s classmates, candy for the candy dishes at home, and a bunch of socks and underwear for the kiddos.

Target sucked the life out of me last night, but I have a feeling I’ll be back for more before the shopping season is over.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 5 – A Wilting Poinsettia

I’ve done it again this year. We made a family trip to the local nursery during the first weekend of December and picked out our tree, and a couple of big beautiful poinsettias to decorate living room. And as sure as Christmas on in the 25th, my Poinsettia began to wilt with a week to spare.

If there is an opposite of green (purple? Brown?) then that’s the color of my thumb. I have purchased, and subsequently tortured and killed numerous house plants. For a while, when we first bought our house, I would buy plenty of petunias each spring to add to the garden bed. For the first fee years, I did a pretty good job tending to them, until July anyway, when I would lose the battle to weeds. Now, with two children running around, the weeds begin to rule shortly after Memorial Day.

I don’t even bother with indoor plants anymore! Except at Christmas. For me, Poinsettias are nearly as important as the tree. They add color and life to our home just as the temperature is plummeting outside. Every year, I spend plenty of time, maybe too much time, perusing the greenhouse full of every variety of poinsettia. I look for one that has full, bright foliage, and no signs of wilting. I’ve learned to park close to the door, and to quickly get my plant into a warm car, lest the New England cold air choke it before it reaches my living room.

I try to follow all of the “caring-for-your poinsettia” tips I’ve picked up over the years, even though they are sometimes contradictory. Nevertheless, every year I either over-water or under-water, and by Christmas day I am sweeping up fallen wilted leaves throughout the day – hoping my guests won’t notice the sorry state of my Christmas flower.

If nothing else, I think I’ve learned to resist the urge to grab a poinsettia on the first weekend of the Christmas Season. Next year, poinsettia shopping with be on the 23rd!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 6 – The Christmas Pageant and the Reluctant Shepherd

My first grader participated in his first Christmas Pageant yesterday at our church.

I was a little surprised that he volunteered for this gig. As of late, he’s been pretty vocal about how shy he is. (That actually seems like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it?) He announced that he wanted no part of Christmas caroling with his Cub Scout Pack over the weekend, as it meant singing in public and no six-year old in their right mind would want any part of that. When I take him to Mass, at the Sign of Peace, he refuses to greet anyone he considers a stranger. I’ve seen him stare down one or two senior citizens who have offered their hands. One afternoon, as he and his sister were belting out “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in the back seat of the car, I suggested that they sing it for Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas. “No way Jose!” He promptly announced that he would not sing, if his sister sang, he would hide in his room until her little concert was over.

So when on Sunday morning, he got up bright and early and was ready for Church on time (and was even pretty chipper about going off to meet his Religious Ed. Class), I was pretty proud, but a little surprised.

Alas, his sunny attitude was short-lived. As he was lining up with the other shepherds to make their way into the church, I saw him start to get a little antsy. He was even more edgy when I told him I needed to leave to sit in the audience. I crossed my fingers.

Mary and Joseph reached the altar first, followed by the cows, the shepherds, the angels and the Magi. About 20 children assembled in front of the altar, sweetly singing Christmas carols. My little boy sang too, or at least I saw him mouth the words. That is, until I pulled out the camera.  Once he saw me, I had no chance of getting a photo of a smiling little cherub this year. Instead, I got this:

Reluctant Shepherd 1
"Mom, do you HAVE to take a picture?"
The Reluctant Shepherd 2
Maybe if I just move behind Joseph over here...
Reluctant Shepherd 3
The Full Disappearing Act

Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be more photo-ops next year.